‘Game of Thrones’ Live Concert Experience 2018 : An Exquisite Extravaganza

2018-05-25 22.36.38-1 (640x640)Next to gripping story lines, captivating performances and show-stopping battle scenes, a top highlight in the award-winning HBO epic fantasy series Game of Thrones is its stirring musical scores composed by Ramin Djawadi (Iron Man, Westworld).

The soundtrack for last year’s Season 7 is in particular brilliant in every sense of the word; so much so that Game of Thrones garnered its first Grammy nomination in the Score Soundtrack for Visual Media category, with Djawadi up against four movie  nominees namely Arrival, Dunkirk, Hidden Figures and La La Land (the eventual winner).
2018-05-25 22.34.48 (640x562)So when it was announced that Ramin Djawadi will embark on yet another Game of Thrones live concert tour featuring show music up to Season 7, I knew it was an experience I just have to, er, experience for myself. I chose to fly to Belfast to see the show last month on May 25 ‘cos not only is Northern Ireland “Game of Thrones Territory”, the venue SSE Arena is also just a stone’s throw away from Titanic Studios where most of the interior scenes of the hit series is shot. Add to that, it would give me a chance to tour Belfast – a city I’d yet to visit then – as well as various GOT filming locations throughout the country.

A FEAST FOR THE EARS & EYES
The 2018 Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience in Belfast features a custom stage, full orchestra (Ulster Orchestra), choir (Belfast Philharmonic), soloists, pyrotechnics, lighting effects and specially edited footage from the show.  Before the concert’s actual start, the audience were thrilled when over the intercom, Queen Cersei (voiced by the magnificent Lena Headey) icily informed those who do not silence their phones “will be boiled alive in the blood of their children…” The chilly announcement was understandably greeted with thunderous applause!

2018-05-25 20.26.14 (538x640)The concert kicked off with the unmistakable Game of Thrones theme, which really put everyone in the mood for more. As music scores from the first six seasons played, solo singers and musicians made full use of the extended catwalk stage, of which a major highlight was this violinist who soared almost 40 feet into the air as she performed a haunting House Stark theme.

L1170969 (640x480)There were so much action both on stage and on the big screen that sometimes you are torn between wanting to watch the show’s footage which you have already seen (but will never get tired of) or the soloists doing their bit live.

Djawadi, the talented genius that he is, performed a couple of solos too using either custom-made or unique musical instruments, as did a couple of musicians ranging from percussionists to horn players.

L1170979 (640x358)Most of the goose-bump-raising moments came from several dramatic events such as The Red Wedding, The Battle of the Bastards and Destruction of the Great Sept Of Baelor, the latter complete with green “wildfire” fumes engulfing Djawadi after his solo on a raised stage. Visually stunning, audibly heart-stopping.

SEASON 7’S HIGH POINTS
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The second act was devoted to music from Season 7 which, if truth be told, I was looking forward to the most. From the poignant ‘Home’ as Arya Stark returns to Winterfell to the heartbreaking ‘Truth’ a.k.a Jon and Dany’s love theme, thanks to the almost flawless performance of the orchestra, one does feel as if transported to the realms of Westeros alongside the show’s characters. The dry ice effect on stage also helped much in making the audience imagined that they were in the miserly cold north too.

L1170986 (640x351)One of the most thrilling Season 7 events was of course Episode 4’s The Loot Train Attack which was presented with loads of fire pyrotechnics as Daenerys and Drogon breathed down on the Lannister army. Actually, there’s always some fire sprouts on stage whenever the dragons popped up on screen, much to anyone’s delight.

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With Game of Thrones Season 7 ending – SPOILER ALERT – with the Night King and a resurrected Viserion bringing down the Wall, one thought the concert would end on that somber note but thankfully that wasn’t the case…

L1170997 (640x466)After making his thank you’s to all and sundry – including Game of Thrones crew members from the nearby Titanic Studios – Djawadi and company ended the over 2-hour-long show with yet another vigorous performance of the totally hummable theme song.

2018-05-25 22.40.12-1 (640x535)The really nice touch at the end, after the performers had taken their bows, was an In Memoriam segment featuring the dearly – and not so dearly – departed characters from Game of Thrones. Needless to say, this was a rather long sequence so most of us sat back down onto our seats. It was fun to hear cheers for favorites such as Ned and Rob Stark, Lady Olenna Tyrell and of course Hodor. The most hisses and boos was given to understandably Ramsey Bolton, while Littlefinger received sarcastic applause.

A MUST-SEE IF YOU LOVE ‘GAME OF THRONES’
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All in all, the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience is worth every penny and a must-see if you are a big GOT fan. It’s akin to seven years of show highlights packaged as an extravaganza of live music and visual effects. Utterly exquisite.

The European leg of this year’s tour just ended in London yesterday. It will move on to Canada and America from September to October 2018. You can find more details on gameofthronesconcert.com. If you love classical music, with dramatic imagery to go along with it, you’d definitely enjoy the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience 2018.

Here’s hoping that the concert will come to Asia and also be released on digital/DVD format.

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5 Highlights From The Han Solo ‘Star Wars’ Movie Trailers

 

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Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo and Joonas Suotamo is Chewbacca in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ [Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm]

Truth be told, I wasn’t exactly excited when I heard that the second Star Wars Anthology film will be about a young Han Solo. After Rogue One, I wanted the next standalone movie to be either about Obi-wan Kenobi or Boba Fett.

Now that the first trailers for Solo: A Star Wars Story are out however, I’ve to admit that the film doesn’t look half bad. In fact, it actually looked quite good. Admittedly though, it did take a while to get used to the square-jawed Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!) as the young Han Solo, especially when one has long embraced Harrison Ford as the Star Wars galaxy’s most famous rogue smuggler for over 40 years. 

Still, there are many things to get excited about the latest Star Wars offering due out this May. Here are five highlights from the Solo: A Star Wars Story trailers.

1. A Squeaky Clean Millennium Falcon

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The Millennium Falcon in its heyday in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ [Credit: Disney/Lucasfiilm]

You could hear a collective gasp across planet Earth when the Super Bowl teaser trailer shows a pan shot of the Millennium Falcon with super clean interiors. What happened to the iconic ship that would be described by naysayers as “that piece of junk” and “garbage” in its later years starting from 1977’s A New Hope, but which we still love to bits anyway? Here’s hoping that Solo will let us know, after we get to see how Han wins the Falcon from Lando Calrissian of course.

2. Lando Suave

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Donald Glover is Lando Calrissian in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ [Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm]

Speaking of whom: To say that Donald Glover is perfectly cast as the suave, smooth-talking Lando Calrissian – the role made famous by Billy Dee Williams in the original trilogy – is an understatement. Just the cool, smug image of him above in the Super Bowl teaser clip was enough to have Twittersphere declaring him as the best thing / reason to watch Solo. We won’t go that far, but do agree that the Han Solo movie looks cooler with the Atlanta star in it.

3. Emilia Clarke as the mysterious Qi’ra

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Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ [Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm]

As a fan of both Star Wars and Game of Thrones, it is great to see Emilia “Daenerys Targaryen” Clarke stepping from the world’s biggest TV show into the planet’s biggest movie franchise. And from what we saw of her character in the trailers – most often than not, in Han Solo’s company – Qi’ra is intriguing to say the least. Is she Han’s childhood buddy who became a bane in his life considering the mildly veiled threat she threw at him that she “might be the only person who knows… what you really are”? For more information about Emilia Clarke’s enigmatic character, check out my story on Qi’ra here.

4. Cool New Main Villain

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Sand-dwelling villains in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ [Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm]

Many believed this new character is a villain ‘cos he has a mask on. He also has a very cool armour outfit that would not be out of place in a space samurai flick. Early word from some fans is that he is either a bounty hunter named Molock who’s out for Han Solo, or possibly a Knight of Ren as the character’s visor helmet is similar to that of Kylo Ren a.k.a Ben Solo, Han’s future son with Princess Leia. Whoever he may be, Han is going to have a High Noon showdown with the staff-toting warrior and his entourage on a very sandy location (and possibly atop a speeding bullet train as well).

5. Glimpses Of The Han Solo We Know And Love

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The grin has it: Alden Ehrenreich’s Solo tries to pull one over Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra [Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm]

Have to confess that hearing Alden Ehrenreich narrating as Han Solo in the main trailer threw me off at first. Then I have to remember that he is not supposed to be a Harrison Ford clone. Truthfully, the 28-year-old didn’t turn out too badly. He may be underplayed in the Super Bowl trailer but in the main teaser, we get to see from the actor glimpses of the cocky yet adorable nerf herder that we know and love. One is in the funny scene where Han is steering the Millennium Falcon through a treacherous route with a terrified Lando and company in tow. Another is during the private chat he has with Qi’ra where he tries to act tough but lets a touch of vulnerability slips through. Here’s hoping Ehrenreich will be able to carry the entire film from start to finish.

Read also:
* Solo: A Star Wars Story – 5 Things We Want To See Play Out Fully In The Actual Film
Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra – What We Know of the Enigmatic Character in Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story hyper-speeds into theaters worldwide on May 25, 2018 – the 41st anniversary of the day when George Lucas first sent us to a galaxy far, far away with Star WarsA New Hope (1977).

6 Fantasy Films ‘Mary & The Witch’s Flower’ Will Lovingly Remind You Of

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‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ [Credit: Studio Ponoc/GKIDS]


(Warning: The following post contains spoilers for Mary and The Witch’s Flower.)

When Hayao Miyazaki announced that he was retiring in 2013, animation fans everywhere feared the end of Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation powerhouse he co-founded and responsible for timeless classics such as My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.

The fears were somewhat unfounded as the studio has been busy with other projects. These include Michaël Dudok de Wit’s Oscar-nominated The Red Turtle; the TV animated series, Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter, directed by Goro Miyazaki (Hayao’s son) for Amazon; and the much-anticipated Studio Ghibli’s Totoro-inspired theme park due for completion in 2020. Also, Miyazaki has since come out of retirement (for the third time) to work on Boro The Caterpillar, a short film designed for the  Museum due out in 2019.

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‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ [Credit: Studio Ponoc/GKIDS]


Of course, Ghibli fans still yearn for the day when they can enjoy a proper full-length feature from the studio, which brings us to Mary and the Witch’s Flower. The film is an enchanting  feature that has all the trademark characteristics of a Ghibli film – from lovable cherubic characters to the coming-of-age narrative, magical transformations to a stirring musical score.

That another Japanese  studio could produce a film so Ghibli-like was hardly surprising once you find out who the creative people behind it are. Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the debut film of Studio Ponoc, founded by former Ghibli animator and producer Yoshiaki Nishimura (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, When Marnie Was There) and directed by another ex-Ghibli animator and director, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There fame.

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‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ [Credit: Studio Ponoc/GKIDS]


Based on Mary Stewart’s 1971 children fantasy novel, The Little BroomstickMary and the Witch’s Flower tells the story of young red-haired Mary Smith who lives with her great-aunt Charlotte in the quaint British town of Redmanor. One day, she came across a mysterious flower known as Fly-by-night, or the Witch’s Flower, that blooms only once every seven years. Mary soon finds herself embarking on a wild adventure as eccentric characters try to seize the one-night-only witching powers that she received from the magical flower. Even as she cherishes the opportunity to escape from her mundane lifestyle, Mary also learns that with power comes the responsibility to save and protect those you love.

Ghibli fans will love Mary and the Witch’s Flower as it has all the qualities of a lush, magical Ghibli film. In fact, the film pays much homage to past Studio Ghibli classics as well as other popular fantasy films that fans of the genre would recognize in an instant. Here is a list of the major shout-outs:

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

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‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ [Credit: Studio Ponoc/GKIDS]


With the mysterious flower enabling her to have the powers of a witch for one night, Mary’s broom-riding escapades, complete with a black cat as companion, is reminiscent of 1989’s Kiki’s Delivery Service which tells the story of a teenage witch.

Castle in the Sky (1986)

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‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ [Credit: Studio Ponoc/GKIDS]


Her magical adventure sees Mary’s magic broomstick flying her into the clouds where the wizardry institution, Endor College, stands majestically aloft in the sky, reminding one of the titular castle in Studio Ghibli’s first feature film, 1986’s Castle in the Sky.

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

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‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ [Credit: Studio Ponoc/GKIDS]


Endor College, the magical institution in the sky that Mary finds herself at, is basically a Hogwarts-like school that trains young witches and wizards, from potions making to levitation. The haughty headmistress, Madame Mumblechook, believes that Mary is a prodigy and that red-headed witches especially have the most power.

Spirited Away (2001)

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‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ [Credit: Studio Ponoc/GKIDS]


The Studio Ghibli film that Mary and the Witch’s Flower paid the most homage to is the Oscar-winning Spirited Away. From Mary’s scary climb up a steep stairway by a cliff; to Doctor Dee, the headmistress’ sidekick who instantly brings to mind Kamaji, the many-armed, bespectacled boiler wizard; to the ferocious water-based monster (pictured above) that Madame Mumblechook transformed into which is not unlike the voracious No-Face.

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

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‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ [Credit: Studio Ponoc/GKIDS]


Mary’s friend from the village, Peter, who finds himself getting involved in her fantastical adventure is very much in the mold of Howl’s apprentice Markl in 2004’s Howl’s Moving Castle, while a dancing, talking flame recalls the bug-eyed flame Calcifer from the same film.

The Island of Dr Moreau (1996)

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‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ [Credit: Studio Ponoc/GKIDS]

Warning: this section contains spoilers for the film.

Close to the end of the film, Mary and Peter discover that Endor College was conducting sinister experiments on animals of all kinds transforming them into monstrous creatures. The hair-raising scene in the hidden lab is like an animated version of those seen in the 1996 fantasy horror film, The Island of Dr Moreau, based on the novel by H.G. Wells.

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‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ [Credit: Studio Ponoc/GKIDS]


Ghibli fans will have no problem falling in love with Studio Ponoc’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower. From its elements of fantasy and wonder, to the familiar arc of self-discovery. Besides the style of animation, by adapting The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart, Studio Ponoc also seem to have adopted Ghibli’s use of fantasy novels written by women authors. These include Eiko Kadono’s Kiki’s Delivery Service, Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle, Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea (made as Tales from Earthsea), Mary Norton’s The Borrowers (as Arrietty) and Joan G. Robinson’s When Marnie Was There.

In terms of originality, this film doesn’t exactly bowl you over with ground-breaking artistry as seen in the likes of Spirited Away or The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. However, for every animation fan who feared that the 30-year-old artistry of Studio Ghibli will soon come to an end, it’s great to know that there is another Japanese animation studio out there which can replicate Studio Ghibli’s trademark look and feels.

Catch Mary and the Witch’s Flower at an arthouse theatre. It will be available in the U.S. this January.

(Source: TheVerge.com)

8 Unlikely Moments We Want To See In ‘The X-Files’ Season 11

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‘The X-Files’ [Credit: Fox]


When The X-Files (1993-2002) made a six-episode return in 2016, ratings were phenomenally good for the 23-year-old franchise, averaging about 16 million viewers per episode. Though the “television event series” wasn’t as perfect as fans hoped it could be, it still didn’t take Fox long to green-light a brand new season comprising of 10 episodes for 2018.

Currently filming in Vancouver, Season 11 of the sci-fi series, which deals with unexplained phenomena, will see David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reprising their roles as the world’s most famous FBI special agents, Fox Mulder (“the believer”) and Dana Scully (“the skeptic”). Both stars and series creator Chris Carter have since dropped many hints on what fans can expect in the forthcoming season, from the long-awaited appearance of the agents’ long-lost son William to Easter-eggs referencing The X-Files’ past. Based on what has been revealed so far, here are eight fairly unlikely outcomes that we’d love to be surprised with in Season 11.

1. A Happy Reunion For Mulder, Scully And William

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Anderson and Duchovny in ‘The X-Files’ Season 10 [ Credit: Fox]


Giving up William, the son that she shares with Mulder, for adoption 15 years ago is something that agent Scully never quite forgiven herself for. Just as the agents’ close relationship was confirmed in the 2008 movie, The X-Files: Fight the Future (they have since broke up romantically), fans have long hoped that Scully will get closure on how her son is faring. So it was good to learn from Carter that the hunt for William will be a major storyline in the new season.

We want nothing more than a happy family reunion for William and his long-suffering parents, but when a hospitalized Scully tells Mulder to find “him” in the Season 11 teaser trailer – is she referring to William and has he become a dangerous threat to humanity? It’s safe to say that a reunion there will be but it will be anything but blissful. We just have to wait and see if there will be a happy ending for our heroes and their (now) teenage son.

2. A Little Less Miller And Einstein

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Amell and Ambrose with Anderson in ‘The X-Files’ Season 10 [ Credit: Fox]


In Season 10, we were introduced to two young FBI special agents, Agent Miller (Robbie Amell) and Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose). It seems to be a move by Fox to see if a new generation of The X-Files is possible if these new, younger characters were well received. Well, they weren’t: Miller the “believer” was called bland, while Einstein “the skeptic” was thought to be annoying. Of all the good news about Season 11, that these two agents will be returning isn’t one of them. Here’s hoping that they will be hardly seen, allowing Mulder and Scully to do what they do best without much interference.

3. The Classic “Scully Red”

Sorry folks, Gillian Anderson still wears a wig for the new season. The award-winning actress has dyed her hair so many times she’s afraid that tresses of her crowning glory will drop off soon and that was the main reason why she wore a wig for Season 10. Many fans disliked it, calling it unflattering, haggard, and stated that it wasn’t the right “Scully red”. If it’s any consolation, Anderson promised that the color of the new wig is “redder this time”. Let us be the judge of that.

4. More Comedic Episodes

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David Duchovny in the “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-monster” episode of THE X-FILES Season 10 [Credit: Fox]


Last season, the funniest episode among the six installments was by a mile, “Mulder and Scully Meet The Were-Monster”. Opinions were split between die-hard fans who loved it and casual followers, who openly disliked it. Comedic episodes have always been part of the original series’ DNA and both Duchovny and Anderson shine in light-hearted episodes that are filled with funny dialogue and, yes, silly monsters.

With eight episodes devoted to monsters-of-the-week story lines next year, we are not expecting a funny episode every other week (that would be silly). The larger mythology of The X-Files remains the agents’ constant quest in stopping the powers that be from destroying humanity. But at least one funny, out-of-the-box episode is a must. Thankfully, there is and it is written no less by fan-favorite writer and director Darin Morgan, who won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for the 1995 episode “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”. Carter tells Entertainment Weekly that the episode will be something special:

“As you come to expect with a Darin Morgan episode, it’s original, idiosyncratic, very, very funny — it’s a thumb in the eye of the show itself.”

In the same interview, Duchovny elaborated on Morgan’s inputs:

“Darin seems to have a special hatred of Mulder. He’s exorcising some personal demons by attacking the character of Mulder. I love the scripts and I find it very interesting to try to play the same character while deconstructing and self-destructing the character at the same time.”

5. Less Blasts From The Past

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Cigarette Smoking Man [Credit: Fox]


For the new season, primarily we would want to know what’s in store in the future for Mulder and Scully, rather than finding out about other characters’ back history. But this is wishful thinking as it is already confirmed that there will be two episodes devoted to two key figures from the past.

The season’s opener will focus on a backstory for the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B Davis), detailing why the chain smoker does the devious things he do and also his apparent family ties to Mulder. It’s been long hinted that Mulder and his main nemesis share a Darth Vader/Luke Skywalker-like relationship.

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Walter Skinner [Credit: Fox]


The agents’ ex-boss, Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), will also get a backstory, centering on the time when he was a young agent. Why we need this after all these years is a mystery but – at the very least – the episode can finally shed some light on why the Vietnam War veteran suffers from recurring dreams of an old woman.

6. Stellar Guest Stars In The Same Vein As Lily Tomlin and Jodie Foster

During The X-Files’ initial run, many big-name stars made guest appearances on the show. A huge fan, Jodie Foster voiced a talking tattoo in the 1996 “Never Again” episode, while Lily Tomlin starred in one of series’ most funniest episodes in 1998’s “How The Ghosts Stole Christmas”.

Although it is unlikely we will get to see these two marquee stars in the new season, an Emmy-winning actress who will be seen in a recurring role is Barbara Hershey (A Killing in a Small Town) who will play a new character named Erika Price, a powerful figure from a mysterious organization.

Another treat for long-time fans is that actress Karin Konoval (The Planet of the Apes trilogy), who famously played a mutant-breeding amputee kept under a bed in one of The X-Files’ most disturbing episodes, 1996’s “Home”, will make a return as a special guest performer. She will play not one but four characters, including two male roles. Judging by what we seen of her in the Season 11 trailer, expect to be mesmerized by Ms Konoval at every turn!

7. Scully Gets Her Own Desk

It has always been a running joke that Scully never has her own working desk in the FBI offices, not even after 23 years. Alas, it seems the situation will remain the same in Season 11. But as Anderson tells Entertainment Weekly, it’s a simple situation for her character to deal with.

“I think she’s taking over Mulder’s desk.”

8. No More Cliffhangers

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The X-Files Season 10 Finale [Credit: Fox]


Finally, even though Carter hinted that Season 11 may just end on another cliffhanger, we hope he will re-consider it. I mean, most fans were delighted when The X-Files made a comeback last year but most would also have been satisfied if last season’s “event series” tied up all loose ends by the last episode. Of course, that didn’t happen. Instead, there was a finale cliffhanger that sees Mulder possibly dying and Scully seemingly being abducted by aliens again.

Truth be told, another season of The X-Files will make even the most die-hard fan feel that the show, iconic as it is, has almost worn out its welcome. For one, the alien abduction and government conspiracy narratives seem a tad old-school and redundant in today’s climate, no matter how much love we have for them. Even star herself has indicated that Season 11 may be the last run for her and many would rather have her starring and producing another season of The Fall, while  could focus on writing more hilarious novels – particularly because his Holy Cowa New York Times best-seller, is a literary hoot!

It will be a wiser move if Carter and his writing team sew up the much-beloved series with a decent finale that will cover all bases and provide closures in every aspect, rather than leaving some hanging for a Season 12. It is already the longest-running sci-fi series in American network television history, so here’s to The X-Files ending gracefully by its next season.

The X-Files Season 11 returns on Fox on January 3, 2018.

Should The X-Files have a Season 12? Let me know in the comments.

(Source: ew.com)

 

 

 

Artistic Wonders: Animated Prequels That Provide Insightful Back Stories To Shows Such As ‘Blade Runner 2049’ And ‘Train to Busan’

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‘Blade Runner Black Out 2022’ [Credit: Warner Bros]

Blade Runner 2049 starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford may not have been the box office hit that its producers and diehard fans hoped for, but it is still a remarkable film in more ways than one. For instance, it is a rare recent film that has not one but three short prequels commissioned to provide back stories to events that happened between Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic, which took place in 2019, and Denis Villeneuve’s sequel, set 30 years later.

Directed by Luke Scott (son of Ridley), the first two prequels 2036: Nexus Dawn and 2048: Nowhere to Run provide background stories on the characters Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), both of whom featured in Blade Runner 2049. But it’s the third prequel, the animated short titled Blade Runner Black Out 2022, that created the most buzz.

An Animated Prequel: ‘Blade Runner Black Out 2022’

Set in Los Angeles three years after the original Blade Runner, the action-packed short tells of how after mobs of angry humans start killing replicants with natural life-spans. Two Nexus 8 replicants – military combat model Iggy and pleasure model Trixie – decide to fight back by creating a massive power outage that became known as the Great Blackout of 2022, “a darkness the humans have never seen.”

Brilliantly animated, the 15-minute prequel is written and directed by Shinichiro Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop fame. The clip also offers a few callbacks to the original Blade Runner, such as Trixie’s acrobatic skills – which is reminiscent of Daryl Hannah’s Pris – while LAPD blade runner Gaff is voiced by the original actor, Edward James Olmos.

However, Blade Runner 2049 is not the first cinematic production to have an animated prequel specifically made to provide a backstory for viewers. If you loved the concept. here are a few other fantastic animated prequels that may be of interest.

1. Snowpiercer (2013) Animated Prequel

Futuristic sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer, directed by The Host’s Bong Joon Ho and starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, focuses on the last remnants of humanity seeking refuge as an apocalyptic earth experiences a new ice age.

Its 4-minute animated prequel was produced to explain how the world turned icy cold after a disastrous attempt to end global warming triggers an ice age instead. Violence arose among the human race as they fight each other to get on board the train that runs on a special engine. The feature film picks up years later when a class system has arisen on the Snowpiercer and a revolution is about to erupt between the lower and upper classes.

The stunning short uses 3D animation albeit with static human characters, yet fear and violence is effectively portrayed through the use of light, sound and special effects. Yona (Ko Asung) narrates the short in Korean, but thankfully there are English subtitles. Effective and well-animated, the prequel helps viewers understand the chaotic scenario featured at the start of Snowpiercer.

2. 47 Ronin (2013) – ‘The Way of the Warrior’

If you can accept Keanu Reeves as a half-Japanese, half-Caucasian samurai, 47 Ronin is actually quite straightforward. Still, the producers felt a prequel was necessary to explain the film’s mythical premise. Set in 18th Century feudal Japan, the 4-minute short relates the tale of 47 great samurai whose lives turned topsy turvy when their master was killed by an evil lord. Forced to become wandering ronin (masterless samurai), the band set out to restore their master’s honor by seeking out his killers, while tackling human and mythical dangers along the way.

Employing 2D animation with splashes of bold colors, The Way of the Warrior is like watching Japanese ink paintings come to life. The short film is worth watching for the chief samurai’s fight with a fire-breathing dragon alone.

3. Train to Busan (2016) – ‘Seoul Station’

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‘Seoul Station’ [Credit: Finecut]

Train to Busan, 2016’s zombies-on-a-train hit from South Korea, was one of Asia’s biggest success stories in 2016. This even allowed director Yeon Sang-ho, who’s known for his animated works such as The King of Pigs and The Fake, to commercially release another zombie-related film titled Seoul Station.

Unlike other animated prequels mentioned in this article, Seoul Station is a full-length feature. And though it is regarded as a prequel to Train to Busanits plotline is actually quite different from its live-action counterpart, the only similarity being that the zombie uprising starts at the Seoul’s central railway terminus. However, it does give a more concise idea of how the undead pandemic started.

Whether you’ve seen Train to Busan or not (and you should if you haven’t), Seoul Station is worth watching on its own accord. It is a social commentary in the guise of a horror flick, using the premise of a zombie pandemic to highlight contemporary social issues such as misogyny, homelessness and ruthless manhandling tactics by authorities.

4. Game of Thrones: Conquest & Rebellion – An Animated History of the Seven Kingdoms (2017)

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‘Games of Thrones: Conquest & Rebellion’ [Credit: HBO]

With Season 7 done and dusted and Season 8 still far on the horizon, HBO is doing all they can to keep Game of Thrones fans occupied in the meantime. Game of Thrones: Conquest & Rebellion is a storybook-style animated history special that tells of turbulent events that took place in and outside Westeros thousands of years before the TV series started.

Part one of the 45-minute special is “Valyria’s Last Scion: House Targaryen”. It tells of the Doom of Valyria, which sees Aegon Targaryen (not Jon Snow, but his ancestor Aegon the Conqueror) sailing across to Westeros with his two sister-wives and conquering all the lands that their three dragons could breathe fire on.

Richly animated and accompanied with the familiar score from TV series, the first chapter is narrated by Harry Lloyd, who played Daenerys Targaryen’s irksome brother Viserys on the show.

The rest of the chapters, which will likely cover events all the way to Robert’s Rebellion, will only be available on exclusive Game of Thrones: The Complete Seventh Season DVD & Blu-ray™ sets (that carry the bonus disc) due out on December 12, 2017.

5. The Matrix trilogy (1999-2003) – ‘The Animatrix’

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‘The Animatrix’ – “Final Flight of the Osiris” [Credit: Warner Home Video]

One of the earlier film franchises to produce animated prequels was the Wachowski’s ground-breaking Matrix trilogy. They weren’t the first to do so but they were certainly among the most ambitious. The Animatrix, conceived and overseen by the talented siblings, is a compilation of nine animated short films based on the Keanu Reeves-led sci-fi franchise.

The idea for the intensive animated project came about when the brothers were promoting The Matrix film in Japan and met up with anime creators who had influenced their work. The first of these shorts is the 10-minute “Final Flight of the Osiris,” a direct prequel to The Matrix Reloaded. Other shorts, such as “The Second Renaissance Part I and II,” tell of the rise of the machines and their ultimate war with man that led to the creation of the computer-generated virtual reality. Comprising different forms and styles of animation, each short film is a cinematic animated achievement in its own right.

Throughout the years, these animated prequels have served a great purpose for fans, as we eagerly seek out more information on our favorite fandoms.

From Batman: Gotham Knight (2008) – the Animatrix of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy – to Star Wars‘s Forces of Destiny series (2017) and the Transformers franchise’s upcoming animated features, these creative prequels are definitely here to stay.

Which animated prequel do you know of that should be added to the above list? Drop me a note below.

Fan Theory: Will Jon Snow Use Dawn To Slay The Night King In ‘Game Of Thrones’ Season 8?

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Jon Snow (played by Kit Harrington) with Longclaw in ‘Game of Thrones’ [Credit: HBO]


From ‘Battle of the Bastards’ to the ‘Loot Train Attack’, Game of Thrones has never failed to up their ante when providing viewers with arguably the finest medieval battle scenes ever seen on television. And one of the key battles in the HBO fantasy series’ upcoming and final season will be without question The Great War, the long-anticipated all-out war between the living and the dead. As seen in Game of Thrones Season 7’s finale, the 8-millenia-old Wall came tumbling down no thanks to The Night King and his newly reanimated, blue fire-breathing dragon (RIP Viserion), allowing his legions of White Walkers and army of the dead to enter Westeros.

Though Jon Snow managed to round up the lords of the north, the Free Folk, the Night’s Watch, the Vale and Daenerys Targaryen to fight the Long Night alongside him, there are many who feel that the Great War’s endgame will ultimately come down to a one-to-one face-off between the King in the North and The Night King.

Jon Snow Needs More Than Dragonfire and Dragonglass To Take Down The Night King

Yes, Jon and his merry men now have weapons made of dragonglass, possess a handful of Valyrian steel weapons and even have Daenerys and her dragons. But for an epic duel to take place, it will take more than these to defeat the Night King, especially when it appears that neither fire nor dragonfire actually affect The Night King.

Ever since Jon Snow demolished a White Walker and its ice blade with his trusty Valyrian Steel sword, Longclaw, at the massacre at Hardhome, the Night King has been fixated on the Stark lad, judging by their epic stare-down at the harbor. Before they met eye-to-eye again in the episode “Beyond the Wall”, Jon and his suicide squad discover that killing a White Walker will also kill off the wights that it turned.

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Jon Snow kills a White Walker with Longclaw at Hardhome [Credit: HBO]

Later, when surrounded by the dead on an ice lake, Beric Dondarrion points out to Jon that killing the Night King would kill the entire army of the dead as “he turned them all”. The Lord of Light devotee also attests that considering Jon and him have been brought back to life – in Beric’s case, six times – killing the Night King might just be their primary purpose in this lifetime. Jon seems inclined to believe that he, and only he, can take on the Night King.

In addition, now that it has been revealed that he is the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryan and Lyanna Stark, one of the most popular fan theories is that Jon (a.k.a Aegon Targaryen) IS the reincarnation of Azor Ahai (even though Aunt Daenerys technically ticks more boxes, but that’s a debate for another article).

Thousands of years ago, the legendary hero is said to have defeated the darkness of the Great Other after forging the sword, Lightbringer. The feat was, however, only achieved after he plunged the sword into the heart of his loving wife, Nissa Nissa, to unleash its full fiery powers. If Jon is indeed the new Azor Ahai, or The Prince That Was Promised, his Lightbringer may need to be something more special than Longclaw (and hopefully one that doesn’t need to be plunged into the bosom of a loved one).

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‘Game of Thrones’ Animated History – Dance of the Dragons [Credit: HBO]

Considering he’s part Targaryen, we might just get to see him ride a dragon to tackle the Night King mid-air whilst wielding a formidable sword! It will be cool to see a dragon Vs. dragon duel scene a la Prince Daemon Targaryen who – during the civil war Dance of the Dragons in the Battle Above the Gods Eye – fatally stabbed his nephew, Prince Aemond. He did so by leaping from the back of his dragon and plunging Dark Sister, the famous Valyrian steel sword of Aegon the Conqueror’s sister-queen Visenya into the prince’s only good eye.

So, Which Sword Is Jon likely To Use As Lightbringer?

A couple of notable Valyrian Steel swords are making their way to Winterfell, and one of these might just be what Jon needs to wield to defeat the archenemy of all humanity. Let’s take a look at each candidate:

Longclaw

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Jon Snow’s Longclaw sword [Credit: HBO]

Jon’s current sword was, for five centuries, the ancestral weapon of House Mormont. It was given to him by Jeor Mormont (albeit with a direwolf hilt) after Jon saved the old Lord Commander from a wight. When they went beyond the wall, Jon then tries to return it to Ser Jorah, who told Jon to keep it as “it serves you well… and your children after you.”

However, as effective as it is, it’s likely that Jon will be wielding another sword for the final conflict.

Heartsbane

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Samwell Tarly with the family ancestral sword Heartsbane [Credit: HBO]

Samwell Tarly took the family’s ancestral Valyrian steel sword, Heartsbane, under his father’s nose, so it’s now at Winterfell. This two-handed greatsword has been with House Tarly for 500 years and it’s posible that Sam will hand Heartsbane to Jon to strike into the “heart of winter,” just as the sword’s name suggests.

Some, however, feel that he might even use it to protect his family. Then again, it could also be loaned to a good swordsman (such as The Hound) for better use at the frontline.

Oathkeeper

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Brienne of Tarth with Oathkeeper [Credit: HBO]

This Valyrian steel longsword was one of two made from Ice, House Stark’s ancestral greatsword last used by Ned Stark. It was initially given to Jaime Lannister by his father Lord Tywin but the Kingslayer never really took to it. After a series of adventures together, Jaime gave it to Brienne of Tarth. Christened “Oathkeeper” by Brienne, the lady knight used it to beat the Hound and execute Stannis Baratheon, prior to rescuing Sansa from the Boltons. Which brings us to Oathkeeper’s sister blade, Widow’s Wail.

Widow’s Wail

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Olenna Tyrell asks Jaime Lannister about Widow’s Wail [ Credit: HBO]

The second Valyrian steel longsword made from Ice was given as a wedding gift by Lord Tywin to his grandson, King Joffrey, who sarcastically named it Widow’s Wail. After Joffrey died, we learnt from “The Queen’s Justice” that Jaime Lannister has taken it on after Olenna Tyrell asks if Jaime will use “his son’s sword” to kill her.

As we know, Jamie left Cersei and is on his way to Winterfell to keep his oath to fight alongside the North, so Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail will come together at some point. Some fans believed that Gendry will be called upon to reforge Ice from the two swords as Robert Baratheon’s bastard is a blacksmith who knows how to work with Valyrian steel. Many would like to see Jon bringing Ice back to its old glory, but considering that the North will need as many Valyrian steel swords as possible, melding two swords into one just doesn’t sound like a wise idea.

Dark Sister

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Could that be the Targaryen sword, Dark Sister, by the tree? [Credit: HBO]

As one of the two Valyrian steel ancestral longswords of House Targaryen – the other being Blackfyre – Dark Sister is famously used by Queen Visenya Targaryen, who conquered Westeros alongside her brother Aegon and sister Rhaenys. The sword is said to be last used by Lord Brynden Rivers, a Targaryen bastard who became the Three-Eyed Raven whom Bran and Meera Reed met in the cave beyond the Wall. This is why some fans believed that the sword picked up by Meera at the cave entrance as she and the Children of the Forest attempt to escape from the Night King and his cronies could be Dark Sister.

If Meera and her family (including Howland Reed, who was at the Tower of Joy with Ned Stark) were to join Jon and fight against the Long Night, then Dark Sister may also make its way to Winterfell. However, Jon is unlikely to use it as the sword is believed to be forged for a woman’s hand. Being a true blue Targaryen, Dany should be the recipient.

If truth be told, the best person to inherit Dark Sister would be Arya Stark. The baby-faced assassin has indicated her fascination with Queen Visenya during her tete-a-tete with Lord Tywin in Season 2, and being the Stark sister with a dark side, no Valyrian steel sword would be more apt for Arya (bar the Catspaw dagger).

Last but not least, another sword (albeit not made of Valyrian steel) comes into play as well.

“Only The Prince Who Was Promised Can Bring The Dawn” – Melisandre

Dawn

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Ser Arthur Dayne with greatsword Dawn [Credit: HBO]

This famous ancestral greatsword of House Dayne was first seen in one of Bran’s visions, held by Ser Arthur Dayne, one of the Kingsguard of Aerys II Targaryen, at the Tower of Joy where Jon Snow was born.

According to legend, Dawn is regarded as a magical sword as it was forged from the heart of a fallen star (possibly a meteorite) and has been with House Dayne for 10,000 years. Its blade is as pale as milkglass and just as strong and sharp as Valyrian steel.

Also in the same vision, after killing Arthur Dayne with his own sword, the young Ned brought Dawn up to the room where he finds his sister Lyanna and strategically placed the sword at the front of the bed. Some fan communities believe that as Jon is “The Prince Who Was Promised”, then he would be the one to bring forth “the dawn” as the darkness of winter arrives.

Using Dawn may be very literal but many feel that it is significant as, in order to protect the North from the Others, Jon would be using the same sword that protected him and his mother at the Tower of Joy.

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Ned Stark places Dawn at the foot of Lyanna’s bed where Jon was born [Credit: HBO]

Considering that it was never indicated on the TV show that Ned actually returned the sword to House Dayne, some fans believe Dawn is hidden in the Winterfell crypts, along with Rhaegar’s silver-stringed harp, which will help prove Jon’s true lineage.

Even though some fans counter argued that only a knight of House Dayne deemed worthy can wield Dawn, a few also pointed out that as a Targaryen, Jon – and even Daenerys, for that matter – is genetically related to House Dayne via their ancestor Maekar Targaryen, who was married to a Dyanna Dayne. As such, Jon is more than qualified to lay claim to Dawn since no other Dayne has done so.

“Only The Prince That Was Promised will bring the dawn”, as Melisandre keeps saying. If Jon is indeed the Prince That Was Promised, could “Promise me, Ned” be another literal coincidence? If so, then Dawn could be the Lightbringer, which will bring down the Night King.

Do you think Dawn will be Jon’s weapon of choice? Leave me a comment below!

(Source: Talking Thrones)